Westville Methodist Church. That place has a lot to answer for. Like most churches. Anyway, it’s me that’s got to answer. It happened as I remember like this. I had, through my newspaper route, my pocket money and birthdays, accumulated at lot of records. I was going to church youth groups and the church always needed to raise money. There were boys at school who girls wanted to be around, the girls at youth group didn’t want to be around me. I wanted to be around those boys. Through Guy Duncan, I met Andrew Guilfoyle, who was popular because he had been expelled or something from another school and liked Depeche Mode, Andrew was friends with Warren Hickey, who was popular because his dad was rich and bought him lots of records from his overseas trips, records that I could not get my hands on, limited editions, coloured vinyl stuff like that, gatefolds, music magazines less than a month old (Smash Hits came in 2 months after the fact at CNA where I had a standing order along with MAD magazine, before magazines were published here, it took 2 months because they had to pass through the censor, sometimes an edition would not appear). I wanted to impress these boys, be allowed into their inner circle. I don’t know how I came to do it but I decided to throw a disco at the church recreation hall. I made a hand written sign. One. And put it up on the school notice board. I looked in the phone book found a mobile DJ booth to hire. Lights. I paid for it all. The church organised refreshments. Remember I was Fifteen (eternally fifteen it would seem, later I am eternally 28 or 32 or 25, you will see). And people came. It worked. I slowly worked my way into the circle. The other thing I had to offer was the school darkroom, I had the keys, Prefects weren’t allowed in because I might be developing, I could skip assembly because I might be developing, if anyone wanted to cut class, they hid in there, smoking cigarettes by the ventilator. Later when prefects demanded to inspect, I would say sure, but refuse to turn anything but the red safe light on. Everyone hid in the equipment cupboards, the prefects never thought to look, stumbling in the darkness. We experimented with typex thinners in the dark, all kinds of darkroom chemicals. I threw another disco. More people turned up, I split the profits with the church. bought more records. Andrew invited me to go to a club with him called The Basement, it was an under 18’s club in Durban, then far from suburban Westville, now on the same freeways it’s only fifteen minutes. I skipped youth group, lied to my mother about sleeping over somewhere and me and Andrew hitched into town. Finally I was in.
No. Omit is wrong. Condense. These are not all my true experiences. Not what really happened. That is incommunicable. I can give you remembered shards. Like the list that stretches below. The rest of this book. Now it is a list, later it will be paragraphs, parts. And there are certain memories that I will blend two into one to communicate an emotional truth, maybe I’m rushing this, so much to cover, but when you read it too, you will rush, skipping words, bits, here and then. So maybe try this. I will give you a phrase. Consider it, consider everything that had to come together to make that phrase. His first pet. What kind of pet was it. Who chose it. Where. How. How did he receive it. Who was he. Who is he now. Is he still he, is he she, is he dead. The pet being the first, implying others must be dead. Buried where. But that is after think of the before. How did he receive it. In a box. Bounding out the car. In a cage. With joy. With sadness. I had a hamster, called Hammy, it lived with another hamster whose name I forgot and anyway died. Later when we discovered that Hammy was pregnant, we rename her, Mother Hamster. Mother Hamster got cancer or a tumor and died, after we had given the babies away. I was at someone’s house, my mother picked me up, driving me home told me that Mother Hamster had died, I knew she’s had him killed. I recall her telling me this on the street where she had once run over a cyclist who had darted into the road. All I ask is that knowing these memories are amalgamations, you consider them. Occasionally while you skip through my life like so much television.
(I am singing now to some unnamed entity. It might be a girl, a bungie jump or a god.)
So then. When I got to the basement it blew my little mind wide open. Well partially open. There was a huge queue which I had to stand in. Andrew said wait here and disappeared. I waited. Hickey and Andrew walked past me and went inside. It took me another 30 minutes to get in and pay the ten or twenty rond. An there was this cavern so different from the mass in the rec hall, but so much the same full of people. But darker, more adult.
I was young and my time at the basement was a blur and a backdrop, soon we were moving on to Play @ C.A.W., Nello’s, Ronnie’s (if we had fake I.D.’s) and spasms, where through Depeche mode and New Order I discovered, dance music.
Somehow I ended up working as a barman there and at this point I’d never kissed a girl. It was an under 18’s club so no alcohol. But I kept some in a fridge in the storeroom, for the Boss, Tertius, occasionally I’d bring in extra and sell them, under the counter, to Andrew and Warren. I wanted to impress them. Tertius was short and fat and wonderful, friendly funny and with a mean temper. I had played DJ at the church thing, so DJ was where I was aiming then, I started to lend Gordy the resident DJ some of my best new music.
Eventually once my mom accepted that I was obviously not sleeping out at friend’s places if I got home at 4 in the morning. After the basement me and Andrew and some other would go elsewhere, Like Play, at community arts workshop, a Goth alternative thing that played way better music than The Basement. Sometimes it was Nello’s. By that stage I had met Tony Goss and Colin Frankie. Tony was our age and hung out with the north beach crowd a vulgar lot that I wanted desperately to be accepted by. Colin was out of school and a male model. He was well dressed. A trendy he was called, I aspired to that, I started to care about how I looked, dress up, carry a copy of “Dorian Gray” in my back pocket. There were other Russell van der Westerhuzen had the same aspirations, Basil, their friend Dean. And while Russell and Dean and I hung out under Colin and Tony’s shadow, there was something Genuine about Russ, something distinctly pseudo about Dean Sutic.
Colin Frankie had been shot for the clothing catalogues for a local shop called I.D.3. The photographer was Phillip Hunt. They all dressed incredible well and I wanted to be just like them, I started to invest more money in clothes, spend more time reading Vogues than books, as I was leaning photography at school I was discovering fashion and fashion photography, Phillip was a working Fashion photographer, six foot something, skinny, dressed like a cowboy on acid. Here, I thought, was a teacher.
But that was later. It got to the point where my mother couldn’t stop me going out, so she insisted she pick me up. In that embarrassed teenage way, I always had her meet me round the corner. On one of the first or second nights of this, she parked up the road and to my teenage embarrassment, we had to drive past the club, everyone outside as it was closing time. There had been this girl earlier talking to me, Michelle, and someone this had offended this guy, who I’d never seen before. As the car rolled slowly past the club, he gave me the finger. Instinctively I reacted, quickly pumping rolling down the window shouted, “Yeah, well go fuck yourself too”, or something like that, I then turned to my mother and said, “Sorry about that.”
The following Friday as I arrived at The Basement, Michelle was standing there, and there was this guy. Andrew was standing off somewhere out of sight and this guy comes up to me, giving me the whole "that’s my girlfriend speech". I didn’t have anything to say. Then the fucker slapped me. Hard. And I knew from experience, from being a fat nerd, to not move. He screamed some more and hit me again. I shrugged and walked off, to go down into the club, leaving him screaming after me, it happened like in a dream. And Michelle followed me down.
That night, I kissed my first girl, with tongue, to Cinema’s “My Kind of Girl”, on the dance floor. Gordy stopped the music and Andrew and warren applauded. Seriously. I felt like I had arrived. I worked in a hip nightclub, I had “won” a fight, the cool guys liked me and I had a girlfriend.
Later that night Warren bought me a beer, I grabbed it and drank lustily. It wasn’t beer, Warren and The North Beach guys had filled the bottle with piss.
Then I discovered that everyone had fucked Michelle, I realized the clapping had been ironic. And she wouldn’t leave me alone, then she told me that she was 23 and I was her boyfriend now, so I mustn’t talk to other girls. And most of my real friends were girls. I left the club that night with a gnawing sense of horror; I was to report to Michelle’s house the next afternoon, to meet her brothers.